The Apostle Paul, from prison, is encouraging the Philippian believers to be united in the Spirit; but what do you do when you run into or are the subject of strife or Spirit-quenching drama within the church? Our tendency is to murmur and complain, or run and retaliate…the answer is to go to the cross where we have sinned or sins have been committed against us and repent and or forgive, and see the grace and love of Jesus cover that situation. We are called as Christians to “work out what God is working in us.”
In this very significant section of the letter, Paul urged the church members to dismiss their pride and to live and serve together in unity. Anything less falls short of the gospel’s standards. True unity will be realized by authentic meekness and selflessness, ultimately exemplified in the earthly life of Jesus. The attitude the church should exhibit was the one Jesus demonstrated.
In our fitness-crazed culture, people often refer to working out the chest, arms, or legs. Some work out with weights, others prefer cardio. But in these first two verses, Paul speaks of working out the unity in the body of Christ.
- 12Wherefore, my beloved (Paul loved these saints like a father), as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Paul is not talking about one’s individual salvation from hell. Instead, he is commanding the church to corporately “work out” their “salvation” (soteria) or present deliverance by applying the truths Paul elaborated upon in 2:6–11.
This working out here refers to the Philippians responsibility put off the old man and their self centered ambitions and attitudes that were in actuality hindering the ongoing process of sanctification and was quenching the Spirit of God. Work out among yourselves is the exhortation.
Beloved, the attitude with which we as a church family so desperately need if we intend to grow in grace and sanctification is one that is rooted in a cross centered, Christ exalting fear of offending God and a righteous awe and respect for Him and one another (cf. Prov. 1:7; 9:10; Isa. 66:1–2)
The phrase fear and trembling (awe and reverence)portrays the attitude every believer should have towardGod whenever they are confronted with carnal and divisive attitudes that stand in stark contrast to the humility displayed by The Lord Jesus Christ.
Work out, not work for your own salvation. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a gospel of works that gives glory to fallen man, but a gospel of unconditional and sovereign grace that gives glory to God and God alone. Many cults and “Christian denominations” preach a gospel of works. They preach a Christ + something=salvation. And this is one of the many Scriptures that they misquote out of context as a “proof text” of their position.
Beloved, Jesus said on the cross that It is finished. The salvation of God as revealed in Scripture is one that is given by grace alone through Christ alone in Christ alone (and I am going to add a new phrase) to the glory of God alone!
The legalists and cults insist that Paul tells us to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, but they fail to read the very next verse declares, 13For it is God which worketh in you (among you) both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Where does the desire to work out your salvation with fear and trembling come from in the first place? It comes from God. These people have already been addressed as saints in Christ Jesus (Phil 1.1). Thus they are already saved.
They have already experienced the reality of the new birth spoken of by God, in that day, I will no longer write My law on tables of stone, but I will write them on the fleshly tablets of their hearts.
(Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 11:19; 2 Corinthians 3:3)
So work out your own salvation, yes, with fear and trembling, but realize it’s God that is working in you! It is God that works in you both to will and then He is the One that gives the ability to do it! It is God that works in you both to will and then gives to you the capacity and power of doing. So it is He that works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
And what is the context of this statement to work out your salvation with fear and trembling? It is written in the context of unacceptable conduct and behavior in light of who they are in Christ.
In chapter 1 we learned that instead of being driven by the love of Christ to preach the gospel and reach the lost, some were driven by the false motives of pride and pretense.
In chapter 2 we saw that instead of walking in submission to The Father and humility like Jesus did as Son of Man, they were walking around striving with one another and envying one another.
In chapter 4, we will see that there were 2 prominent ladies in this congregation who could not see eye to eye in some area of ministry within this congregation.
Beloved, whenever there is striving and envy or competition and bad attitudes within any congregation, it is a clear indication that our eyes are off The Lord and the message of the cross and on ourselves and our feelings or rights.
It is in the context of working out these personal and relational issues that Paul exhorts them to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. With fear and trembling means to give some real thought to what you’re doing. Work out your salvation soberly and thoughtfully.
Why? For it is God Who is at work in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Does that mean that God is the author of striving and envy and bad attitudes? Absolutely not! It means that God is allowing these fleshly attitudes to come to the surface in order that we might realize that we need to look afresh at the cross and example of humility demonstrated by Jesus.
Just as Jesus obeyed always for the glory of The Father, we too are to humble ourselves reach out to one another in love and grace deal for the glory of God. • Each of us needs to seriously consider whether or not there is something in our lives that is discrediting the name and Person of Christ. When we realize what He has done for us, we ought to tremble as we stand in the presence of a holy, righteous, almighty God.
Not only do we stand in His presence now, but we will also stand in His presence when we give account at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
For His good pleasure- In Revelation 4.11 we read, and for Thy pleasure we are created. The primary purpose of each and every Christian is to live a life that is pleasing to The Father and reflective of Jesus Christ. And a major part of pleasing The Father has to do with having God glorifying attitudes with one another.
- And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men. (Acts 24:16).
Personal obedience + divine enablement=His good pleasure. It is only as we cooperate with Him that we see the true potential of our lives realized. Both sides of the coin are needed: dependence (God’s sovereignty) and discipline (human responsibility)
- 14Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
A man decided to join a monastery and one of the rules of the group was that you were only allowed to speak two words every ten years. At the end of ten years he said, “Bad food!” Ten more years went by and he said, “Hard bed!” Finally, on his 30th anniversary with the brothers, he thundered, “I quit!” And the priest in charge responded, “You might as well. All you do is complain anyway.”
Seriously speaking, murmuring is low-toned, discontented muttering. It is negative, muted comments, complaining, and whining. You can identify a grumbler from yards away by their body language. Grumblers often wear frowns, appear visibly weary, and incessantly shake their head. They also like to sigh deeply. This typically causes caring persons to ask,“What’s wrong?” The grumbler then responds with a list of grievances. And lets face it beloved; the devil knows that the poison of pessimism and criticism affects our unity and quenches The Spirit of God.
Do you know why The Spirit of God prompted Paul to write this warning to the Philippians about murmuring and complaining? Because this congregation (and every congregation) needed to know the serious consequences of murmuring and complaining (Read slowly and prayerfully James 3.1-10).
How many of you know that murmuring and complaining is sin and displeasing to God? Both murmuring and disputing characterized the children of Israel in the wilderness.
- Ex 16.8 The LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us (Moses & Aaron), but against the LORD.
- Num 14.27 How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.
- A careful reading of 1 Cor 10 and the accounts of the complaining children of Israel in the wilderness will reveal how their murmuring in their tents literally destroyed them.
- 1 Cor 10.10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
Complaining about our lot in life might seem quite innocent in itself, but God takes it personally. ERWIN W. LUTZER (1941– )
Disputings- The Greek word for disputing in our texts literally means, questionings or doubtings. This is not a rebuke of sincere questioning of why God is allowing this to happen in my life? This word refers to ill-natured argumentation, verbal expressions of disagreementthat stir up suspicions and distrust, doubt, and other disturbing feelings in others.
What message does a murmuring, grumbling and complaining Christian send to those who have yet to come to Christ as Lord?
What impact does murmuring and complaining have on the unity within the local church?
Beloved, murmuring and complaining will severely damage your spiritual immune system and the flow of The Spirit of God in your life. As we will see in a moment, we are called to be a light to a fallen and corrupt world. But if we are murmuring and complaining within the church as much as the unsaved are murmuring and complaining outside of the church, what is the difference between us and them? Why would they think that they need what we have?
Let me be very transparent here beloved. I am not naïve to think that the leadership here is without sin and beyond making mistakes. The right way to express those concerns or problems is with us face to face in order that we might hear your heart and seek to come to a solution that glorifies God. To spread half truths or personal dissatisfaction amongst yourselves is sowing discord and is one of the things that God says He hates in Proverbs.
Brothers and sisters, we are in this battle together. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we must seek to overcome sin together as a church family. We must do everything we can to promote health and holiness among ourselves. We must keep short accounts and seek to go to every length possible to avoid grumbling and disputing.
- 15That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
Blameless- describes a life that cannot be criticized because of sin or evil. Harmless (innocent)- describes a life that is pure, unmixed, and unadulterated with sin. No hypocrisy. One way of talking and acting in front of people at church on Sunday and another way of talking and acting in front of my peers at my college dorm or workplace.
Crooked is the word from which the English “scoliosis” (curvature of the spinal column) comes. It describes something that is deviated from the standard, which is true of all who stray from God’s path (cf. Prov. 2:15; Isa. 53:6).
Perverse (twisted) intensifies this meaning by referring to a person who has strayed so far off the path that his deviation is severely distorted (cf. Luke 9:41). Paul applies this condition to the sinful world system. Crooked and perverse are reminders that fallen man it totally depraved.
When Paul refers to “a crooked and perverse generation,” he is alluding to the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:5. In the bittersweet song Moses gave to the assembly of Israel just prior to his exodus from this earth, he sharply contrasted the faithfulness of God and the faithlessness of His people. In a sense, the Israelites were working out their salvation in the wilderness. Unfortunately, there is a whole lot of grumbling and complaining.
Did you catch how resisting the temptation to murmur and dispute is connected with being a blameless and harmless witness in a crooked and fallen world?
Yes, our light should so shine before men that when they see your good works they glorify your Father that is in heaven. But may I add this morning that our lips and language should shine as well.
- 16Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
The phrase holding forth here carries the idea that believers are to be so committed to Jesus Christ and the glory of The Father that in doing so, we are holding out or offering something for others to take. It is similar to offering a life jacket to a drowning man.
Run- Like the runner who trains & trains, then pulls a hamstring right before the race, all that running was futile.
Labored- like a farmer working in the field.
Beloved, the real test of our commitment to Jesus Christ is not measured by how you act within this sanctuary this Sunday, but by how you live at home, at work or at school.
To prevent disunity from extinguishing the testimony of a church, we must “hold fast the word of life.” That is, we must obediently achieve Jesus’ unity. A true gospel witness demands a deliberate effort to live a true gospel lifestyle.
- 17Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.
Paul sees himself as a drink offering—one that has been poured out for Jesus and others. In the sacrificial system under the Old Covenant, the priests would take the animal sacrifices and spread them on the altar to be consumed by fire. Then they would take a drink offering and pour it on top of that searing hot flame. Inevitably, the liquid would turn into steam and it would go up in a
wisp of smoke. Paul is saying: I love you people, and I am here to serve you and to sacrifice for you. If necessary, I am willing for my life to just go up in steam to the Lord that I may be a blessing to you.
- 18For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.
In other words, if Caesar takes my life, don’t be sorrowing. I want you to rejoice with me.
Beloved, wherever there is a surrendered heart and mind to the will and purposes of God, there will be sacrifice and service. To be a living sacrifice unto Jesus will always involve a cost.
Beloved, the realization that The Creator of the universe has plans for your life and works within you to fulfill those plans is a cause of great rejoicing today.
The same holds true of this congregation. The most outstanding singular purpose of The Spirit of God working is us is to conform us into the image of Jesus
When The Spirit of God exposes an area of the flesh, it is not to condemn us, but to serve us notice that it is inconsistent with the message of the cross.
What part of today message hit home for you? What specific areas of the flesh did the light of God’s Word expose? What do you plan to do to address the situation in a biblical, God glorifying way?
May the truths that we heard today not fall upon deaf ears. To repeatedly hear and neglect acting on God’s truth will cause a hardening of the heart.
May we all for the glory of God look to the cross of Jesus and together, work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it God working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.